The deadly attack in Islamabad on Sept 20 has forced Pakistanis to think deeply about how to meet the challenge of this growing cycle of violence. They are trying to comprehend the dynamics and motives behind the extremely disturbing and dangerous phenomenon of attacks targeting innocent people.
The full impact of a policy of supporting the so-called war on terror is becoming clearer. Gen Musharraf could only think of a personal legitimacy. He did not anticipate the horrendous price the nation would have to pay for such a policy, which was designed in response to the US advice following the Sept 11 attacks.
The seeds that he sowed on Sept 14, 2001, the day Bush made his infamous telephone call, have grown into hatred, unleashing death and destruction on a scale that Pakistanis could never have imagined.
The relentless bombing of Bajaur and Swat, resulting in the death of hundreds of innocent civilians, including women and children, the destruction of villages and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people have created an urge for revenge against the government.
Whys was a situation allowed to develop where Khar, Bajaur’s chief town, was surrounded by militants. Since the deep undercurrents of insurgency were already sweeping the tribal areas, why were the authorities indifferent to the militants establishing themselves close to the town? Why couldn’t their moves be thwarted before they posed the danger? The authorities could either strike the militants pre-emptively or establish some form of indirect communication with a view to ascertaining their plans and objectives or their demands. None of this was done. And when the danger increased, inaction was abandoned and the ruthless bombing of the entire areas was ordered. This could only result in the killing of ordinary Bajauri men and women. Such a climate breeds terrorism and militancy.
But then the government action in Bajaur could not be the only reason for attacks such as the one at the Marriott. There could be a more sinister plan to destabilise an Islamic country possessing nuclear weapons. We must remember that the US knew Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. In spite of this knowledge and in violation of the UN Charter, iraq was attacked. The only conclusion one could draw is that such a stupendous operation was launched to remove a potential adversary which could cause insecurity to Israel. While Israel is in possession of more than 150 nuclear bombs (as is acknowledged Internationally). Iran is not being allowed to develope nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Because the fear is that it could lead Iran to develop nuclear weapons which would pose a threat to Israel.
By the same logic it is feared that a strong, stable Pakistan could in future pose a danger to the Zionist state. It is therefore vital that Pakistan be destabilised in order that it does not focus on rebuilding its institutions, including the emergence of viable political leadership with a vision for the future. It is equally important to ensure that conditions are created in which the society would be polarised and fractured and national wealth and resources would be spent on inconsequential projects.
Unfortunately, we are providing conditions for such catastrophic plans to be put into practice. Perhaps a national commission comprising of eminent personalities, having adequate knowledge of the area and its people needs to be established to ascertain the causes of militancy and suggest appropriate remedies consistent with the sovereignty and geopolitical objectives.
But while we stay focussed on determining the strategic factors that underpin the current state of militancy, we should not lose sight of the fact that there were both an intelligence failure and an administrative lapse which facilitated the ghastly and gruesome massacre at the Marriott. The fact that an explosives-laden truck could be moved up and down Islamabad’s safe zone of heavy security speaks volumes about the sad state of affairs of our institutions. One has to admit that we are in a state of institutional paralysis. The vicious circle needs to broken and soon.
The writer is a former chief secretary of NWFP and also served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul.
Source: The News, Thursday, September 25, 2008